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Article: Why do babies need iron?

Why do babies need iron?

In our Feeding Curiosity podcast, we spoke with mum of 3 and Naturopath Lucinda Miller about why so many baby foods are fortified with iron, and why it’s so important in babies development.

Why do babies need iron?

Why do babies need iron?
Iron is vital for making haemoglobin, which is needed to create red blood cells - the ones that carry oxygen around our bodies, and that are essential for your little one's growth, development and ability to learn.  Every cell in our bodies needs oxygen to do its job  properly and without enough iron they won’t be able to function to the fullest. Given that babies do so much growing, they need plenty of iron!

Lucinda taught us that babies iron stores start to deplete around 6 months.  Before then they have enough stored from when they were in their mothers tummies, and so it’s really important that these stores are replenished. 
Around this time is when most babies start to wean, so it’s helpful to know which foods are iron rich.  It’s also why you often see baby specific foods in the supermarket labelled as ‘fortified with iron’, as it’s such an important  nutrient to ensure your little one has the right building blocks to support their brain and physical development.  

How do I know if my baby has enough iron?
It’s tricky to physically spot a lack of iron, and probably not something that many of us will think of unless our baby is pale.  But there are some other tell-tale signs to look out for which include

Pale complexion
A poor appetite
Slow growth rate
Repeat infection
Increased sweating

If you think that your baby may be iron deficient you can always ask your doctor or health visitor for advice.

How much iron does my baby need?
Babies need between 7-8mg of iron per day in their diets. The easiest way to maintain this level is to include high iron foods in their diet including:

  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Apricots
  • Beans 
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Leafy greens including spinach and kale
  • Lentils
  • Sweet potato

There are some fabulous iron-rich recipes in our Family Hub including these Spinach and Cheddar Straws which are perfect for lunchtime and snacks on the go. Egg yolks are also rich in iron, so you could also make a mini omelette, eggy bread or frittata fingers.  

Top tip 
Offer foods which are rich in Vitamin C (like peas ,berries, leafy greens) at the same time as iron rich foods, as they increase the iron absorption.

To listen to this podcast in full, click here.

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